Sunday, October 28, 2007

Anna Ruth With Her New Baby in January, 1954

Though She May Forget...

Sometimes I feel a sense of abandonment over losing my mother's support. Mom was a willing helper to me for so many years. She babysat my kids so that I could grocery shop or go out for a few hours child-free. She prepared Sunday dinners for us, helped me to grade school papers, and counseled me when I was angry or hurt. Mama still expresses approval of me, but the keen interest is gone. Her responses to my stories are warm and polite but the spark of parental pride has faded. Occasionally, although she still knows that she has a daughter named Linda, she is not positive that I am the person who is that daughter. And I have found that there is no one who cares about me the way my mother used to care for me. Since Mama sat down in her chair and became the recipient of care rather than the care-donor; there isn't one other person on earth who is as happy as I am when I receive an award, survive a root canal, or decorate the front porch in fall colors. I am fifty-three-nearly-fifty-four-years-old and I miss my mama.

Isaiah 49:15 (below) is full of rich comfort no matter what age we are when we lose our mother's care. Even as my mother fades from view I hear a beloved voice say, "I care. I provided the fall flowers that you arranged on your porch, and I stood by your side as you stepped back to view the work of your hands. I admired the beauty with you, and I am proud of the way My light shines through you."

When my mother was always available to me, I often turned to her if not instead of the Lord, ahead of the Lord. He waited patiently to become my #1 confidant, and in the meantime He cared for me lovingly, at times using my mother's hands to deliver acts of service that blessed my life. Sometimes we have to get to a place where there is no one else to turn to before we can recognize that if we have Jesus, we truly do have all we need.

I miss my mom. But my heart's needs are fed through the Lord. He will never leave me.

Scripture: Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Isaiah 49:15

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fear Not

Today the Lord has given me a living illustration of how vital it is to follow His command not to be afraid.

My daughter and I made an hour's drive to the city this morning, returning home early this evening. To those accustomed to traffic, this mid-western city is not difficult to navigate. Most times even I, the quintessential country bumpkin, have no trouble making my way around this nearly-but-not-quite-urban area. But today we traveled by the turnpike, and there was roadwork. My daughter is six months pregnant, and I felt protective of her and even more unsure of my driving skills than usual. The maneuvers of weaving around orange pylons in order to stay in the correct lane of traffic raised my anxiety level.

By the time we reached the city my stomach was knotted with anxiety from several sources. En route I had remembered that my respite caregiver for Mom had told me she wouldn't be coming today. This would leave Mom alone for a longer time than usual during the afternoon and early evening. My son has suffered a heart hurt as a relationship he's been in for over a year is coming to an end, and I am worried about him. And my daughter's pregnancy has caused her to seem to me to be both more precious and more fragile than ever before in her life, except perhaps when she was a newborn herself.

As we exited the highway I saw a woman sitting at the side of the road. With one hand she was holding an illegible cardboard sign in front of her face and the other hand repeatedly raked through her shiny brown hair. I was impressed by how clean her hair looked, and how it glinted in the sunlight. As I looked at her she raised her eyes to mine and they were full of misery. There was an instant when I could have grabbed a $20 dollar bill from my purse and rushed to her side--the traffic had momentarily cleared and I was at a red light. I let the moment go by, and I drove away. And then, Father forgive me, I forgot about her as we shopped for baby supplies and clothes. It wasn't until I was safely back at home that I remembered those eyes, and when the memory returned I recognized that I had left someone I love at the side of the road, because at this moment as I think of that poor woman's eyes, I see the eyes of Christ.

Jesus commands us to care for those He loves, and today I let Him down. I have asked for and received His forgiveness; but the remorse I feel continues to break my heart tonight. As I prayed not to sin in this way again I asked the Lord what had caused me to be oblivious to that woman's suffering to the degree that I was able to so completely dismiss her from my mind that I didn't even pray for her. I recognized that fear was the culprit. I was so tense with anxiety (which is just another word for fear) that I couldn't see that woman clearly. It wasn't until I felt safe at home that I remembered the agony in her eyes and knew that had I prayed, that the Lord would have shown me a way to reach out to her.

Scripture repeatedly instructs us to refrain from fear; the King James Version of the Bible uses the phrase, "fear not," 62 times. Today I learned that a fearful heart can cause a blindness to the suffering of others that breaks the Lord's heart.

Scripture: For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, "Do not fear, I will help you." Isaiah 41:13 NIV

Monday, October 22, 2007

Mom in 1946

Martha Not Mary Again

Company came for the weekend and I morphed into a likeness of Lazarus’s sister Martha, complete with a pretty severe case of resentment toward all of the Marys in my life, including my mother who sat placidly in her overstuffed recliner, eyes closed against the chaos around her.

After the storm of the weekend’s activity was over I sought the Lord with shame over my dark feelings during a time that should have been joyful. I prayed for the skill I thought I needed in order to be able to turn my thoughts toward Him even in the midst of frantic activity. Some truths came to my mind as follows:

There is no skill involved in turning one’s thoughts and heart toward the Lord, though there is an act of will involved in the choice to turn away from a temporal Band-Aid and toward the healing balm of Gilead. This weekend I fed my weariness with too much sugar and caffeine, but I could have chosen to refresh my spirit with Scripture instead. I could have prayed for strength.

It’s just that in the moment of turning away from the world’s comfort one feels that the aching need and burdensome weariness must be borne rather than salved. It is like choosing to go without an inferior medicine for a time so that the system may be purged before ingesting the perfect medicine. This is not skill so much as it is faith. It is not obedience so much as it is trust; trust based on the belief that to deny myself in order to follow Him will result in a more complete satisfaction of my heart’s needs than any indulgence of the flesh can bring.

The blood of Jesus Christ affords us access to God at all times. However, the world’s “satisfactions” dull the spirit and blind the heart to what is real. When we are suffering from the dulling influence of any satisfaction the world offers as a substitute for God’s comfort, we cannot trust our own perceptions; that which seems good may actually be poison. Our only hope of escape from the magnetic attraction of the world’s pleasures is faith in Christ Jesus.

As long as we wear the cloak of flesh the world’s distractions and worries will cause our hearts to be pulled first one direction and then another. But if our hearts are set on Christ, we will always come back to center.

In between times of strength there will be times of wavering and error and even sin. Praise God for the blood of Jesus Christ which has cleansed us from all that causes us to waver and draws our hearts back to center in Him.

Scripture: Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84:5-7 NIV

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bobbi the Alzheimer's Care Cat

No Easy Way

I awoke in a bleak frame of mind this morning. During my devotion time my fingers flew across the computer's keyboard as I enumerated everything negative in my life. I filled a couple of pages with my detailed account of all that was wrong, finishing it with the sentiment that I just wished that I could get away for awhile. "Oh that I had the wings of a dove..." (Psalm 55:6).

The old hymn says to, "Count your many blessings, name them one by one..." Instead, today I chose to list my little trials in unnecessary detail. I was feeding my desire for escapism.

Wherever you go, there you are. The truth of that quote has amused me for years and this morning in a flash of insight I recognized that apart from the Lord there is no escape from the pain I would like to avoid. I can't escape my grief over my mother; it would travel with me. This week a dear niece's email in which she spoke of her father's last days brought back a vivid memory of my own father's death from cancer, and I recognized that this grief too is a part of me from which there is no escape.

I certainly can't escape from my middle-aged body and its requirements for increased exercise, less food, and a variety of maintenance strategies that range from being inconvenient to downright embarrassing. Wherever I would run, there I would be; and how much better to rest in the arms of the Lord Who has provided so richly for me right where I am.

Scripture: Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mom and Me

Cast Your Cares

I have had a lot of experience with fear.

I was a fearful child who turned into a fearful young adult. Along the way I learned that fear can't be contained. Like a liquid rather than a solid, it spreads throughout the mind and heart. What began in childhood as a fear of the dark and of strangers spread to contaminate nearly every area of my life. By junior high I suffered sleeplessness and inability to eat over situations so innocuous that the memory of that time causes me to shake my head in regret over lost joy. In my early 20's I began to learn to bring my fears to the Lord and aside from a few glitches in regard to my children (being a parent is terrifying) I've experienced a steadily increasing measure of freedom as I've made the Lord my heart's home.

I've been feeling heartbroken and lonely for the past few months. Surrounded by family, supported by friends; I have nevertheless wept nearly daily over a paralyzing sense of isolation from those around me. I've felt abandoned, and as usual my poor husband has caught the blame. "If I feel abandoned then you must've abandoned me," has been expressed in my attitude and demeanor toward my husband. This idea seemed to be confirmed by the fact that he really hasn't been able to be home much for the past three months because late summer and fall are busy times on the farm.

This morning during my devotion time I finally realized that I am feeling heartbroken over losing my mother and I feel abandoned because she is going to leave me. Indeed, because of her Alzheimer's, she is leaving me a bit more day by day. These negative emotions of abandonment and grief have spread like the fears that I used to harbor. That sense of abandonment has leached out of a container labeled, "Sorrow Over Losing Mom," and has had a negative effect on all areas of my life.

Boxing up emotions and attempting to contain them in our own strength doesn't work. The containers always leak!

Psalm 55 contains the template for how to cope with negative emotions such as fear, grief, and loneliness.

Scripture: My heart is in anguish within me...I said, "Oh that I had the wings of a dove, I would fly away and be at rest--I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and the storm,"...cast your cares upon the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let his righteous fall. Psalm 55:4, 6-7, 22

Monday, October 8, 2007

Things Happen

When I began to write the story of my mother's Alzheimer's disease, I faced a decision as to whether or not I should describe in detail the frustrating and upsetting events that occurred. As I dedicated my writing ability to the Lord, I found myself using my skills of description to reveal His participation in our lives rather than waxing eloquent over the exact timbre of my emotional state the first time I had to exit Wal-mart pushing a cart loaded with four packages of Depends. In this way I was able to honor my mother and yet share my heart's hurts and the solace the Lord provided.

All human beings spend a good part of each day in activities that do not need to be described in polite company! These human bodies of ours require quite a bit of maintenance, not to speak of an average of five trips to the bathroom a day! "Not to speak of," -- that's key!

Yes, I bathe my mom. This was traumatic at first, and I probably will never get over that little feeling of dread on bath day. But it's no big deal, really. We bathe our own bodies. We bathe our children. And sometimes the natural progression of life requires that we learn to bathe our parents.

Yes, I have to hide the hairbrush from my mom or she brushes her hair vigorously straight back from her face until she looks like Albert Einstein on a bad hair day. But did you really need to know that?

What I want you to know is that my mom is still my mom. She loves me. I love her. God is with us. And there is much that is beautiful in our lives. Following a visit with my mother, a good friend said, "I'm sure things happen. But she's still just 'Anna Ruth' to me and I love her."

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phil. 4:8 NIV

Sunday, October 7, 2007

I'm Back

A couple of years ago I put up a blog entitled, "God, Mom, Alzheimer's, and Me," here at An editor saw the blog (be still, my heart) and asked whether I had ever considered writing a book. I had--and I did! I took the blog down during the writing process.

The book has been written, copyrighted, and is now with another editor at a different publishing company. Not knowing what the verdict will be when this new editor peruses my book, I am continuing to work on improved book proposals in between caregiving and teaching duties.

I've missed the immediacy of posting each day's caretaking adventures with Mom online, and so I'm back! If it is possible to post a PowerPoint presentation here I will do it above and you will have an opportunity to see a summary of the book, God, Mom, Alzheimer's and Me. In the meantime, meet me back here for daily entries in the adventures of taking care of Mom, as always for the glory of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.